“Not even for a second. I was honoring your boundaries. And if you have an emotional crash, I’m going to be there. You’re not getting rid of me yet, so you might as well quit trying. Your call. You can walk out of here or I can toss you over my shoulder.”

She looked at him, studied his stance as if trying to determine how serious he was. Finally, she exhaled a slight huff. “You can secure a ride for me.”

“Do I look like I’m open to a compromise?” When she opened her mouth again, his temper unraveled. “Don’t make me gag you.”


“Last chance. I’ll give you the world, but I won’t risk your safety. Deal with it.” He picked up his bag. Then, aware that he might have overreacted because she mattered to him, and not just because she was his investor’s kid, he added, “It’s a ride.” Deep inside, he knew it was so much more for her. Her freedom. Her perceived slight. “Is it worth the argument? Five minutes, Willow.”

In the end, she relented with a tight nod.

On the main level, he claimed her lightweight jacket and helped her into it while Trinity called the valet to bring his car around.

Jax took Willow’s elbow as they walked down the steep set of stairs leading to the street.

Outside in the warm spring evening, people were everywhere—on the sidewalks, leaning over balconies, weaving through stopped, honking cars on the street. Revelers, some draped in Mardi Gras beads, bustled by, sipping hurricanes.

He guided her toward their waiting car and helped her inside.

When he was in the driver’s seat, he asked, “Are you at a hotel or private residence?”

“The Maison Sterling.”

“Excellent choice.” The boutique hotel known for its exquisite service and accommodations was owned by the Sterling family—fellow Titans.

As she’d said, the hotel was nearby, but with the partiers and gridlock of cars, it might have been faster to walk. Still, they reached their destination sooner than he would have liked. He didn’t want their evening to end with her feeling abandoned.

He found a rare parking spot on the street and pulled into it so they had a few more minutes together. “May I buy you a drink?”

“I have an early flight.” She shot him a polite smile that was gobbled by the nighttime shadows. “Thanks for the offer. It’s nice of you.”